Regional public transportation took a significant new step forward today as the Capital Metro board of directors approved an agreement with Cedar Park to partner on bus service to their city: Route 214 Northwest Flex. It will be considered by the Cedar Park City Council next week and would begin operation on January 18th. The agreement and the route itself are pretty innovative. First a little background on the agreement.
Capital Metro’s service area covers an area of around 500 square miles and represents the cities and parts of counties where residents approved a sales tax for public transportation service. The service area does not cover all of the cities in our region since some areas either chose not to participate or withdrew after initially becoming a member. Cedar Park is one of the cities that withdrew about 10 years ago.
In 2008 we saw the need to do what we could to get public transportation to cities that are not part of the Capital Metro taxing area, because the transit needs don’t stop at the service area boundary. So we developed a Service Expansion Policy that cleared the way for us to work with progressive cities like Cedar Park to provide public transportation.
We pay for the part of the route in our service area and they pay for the part in their city. The agreement also credits Cedar Park with the portion of federal transit funds that come to the region based upon Cedar Park’s population and density. The intent was to provide customers with service that is a part of the bigger public transportation system with connections to other areas, common schedules and fares and customer information services that our website and call center provide.
Route 214 is going to be a flex route which means passengers up to ¾ mile from the route can request a pick up and the bus can go get them. This greatly expands the reach of the route and makes it more efficient in suburban settings. The route’s western point is in Lago Vista (a Capital Metro member city) and its eastern point is Capital Metro Lakeline Station where there are bus and MetroRail connections to the rest of the service area. In between, the route goes through Jonestown (another member city) and into Cedar Park to provide access to shopping, the Cedar Park Regional Medical Center and the Austin Community College campus.
The Cedar Park agreement is the first of what we hope will be many others, because the need for public transportation doesn’t stop at city boundaries.
[**Update: The Cedar Park City Council did not take final action at its Dec. 16 meeting. Capital Metro will move forward with Route 214 to provide flex service between Lakeline Station and the cities of Lago Vista and Jonestown.]